What happened

Shares of Lithium Americas (LAC), a development-stage lithium mining company, declined 5.2% in October, according to data from S&P Global Market Intelligence. For context, the S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite indexes returned 8.1% and 3.9%, respectively, last month.

The catalyst for this lithium stock's October underperformance was news that the hearing for an appeal of a federal regulatory approval for its Nevada project was set for January, which is further out than many investors were probably hoping to see. Investors are eager for the company to move into the commercialization stage to capitalize on the booming demand for lithium, which is needed to make batteries for electric vehicles (EVs).

This month, Lithium Americas stock is up 6.3% as of Nov. 7, while the S&P 500 is down 1.7% over this period.

So what

On Oct. 7, shares of Lithium Americas dropped 12.8%, following the company's announcement that an oral hearing was scheduled for Jan. 5, 2023, for the appeal of the Record of Decision (ROD) for its Thacker Pass project in Nevada, which will mine lithium from clay.

Some investors were likely disappointed that this key regulatory hurdle -- which should be the last one -- wouldn't occur sooner. The company can't begin constructing its facilities unless and until this matter is settled in its favor. 

Lithium Americas received the ROD from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management for this project in January 2021, following completion of the National Environmental Policy Act process. Its progress in receiving the required federal and state permits moved slowly because of objections and lawsuits from environmental groups and Native Americans.

Lithium Americas stock got a tailwind from the market in the latter portion of last month, enabling it to make up some of its loss stemming from the ROD appeal date announcement.

Now what

Investors will have to wait until this coming Jan. 5 to learn if Lithium Americas will be able to move forward on the Thacker Pass project. 

As I wrote last week in my article about Lithium Americas' plans to split into two public companies, it "seems likely to me that the appeal will be denied, as Lithium Americas has emerged victorious" in the various other efforts and lawsuits aimed at trying to stop the Thacker Pass project.